How to get better insights and build the brand by online discussions
Being a brand manager or product developer, the online realm may seem to be your oyster; typing some keywords in a search engine can result in an apparently endless array of forum posts, tweets and blog entries, raving, gossiping or complaining about your brand. But be careful of what you are paying attention to, because you might end up listening to the wrong voices.
As a few researchers pointed out lately, the anonymous masses of the Web 2.0 sphere started to move from a cooperative, positive attitude to malicious criticism, going as far as ’cyber-mobbing’ brand activities just for the sake of irreverent pleasure. Obviously, this is not a general rule, but it is indeed a risk that you are facing when using such source of information.
You might wonder: isn’t it enough then to turn to your brand’s social media page and start a conversation with your followers? It seems to be an easy and tempting option to establish a more ‘personal’ type of online research, but it might still not be satisfactory in every aspect.
Initiatives like Frito-Lay’s recent co-creation activity conducted on their Facebook page might be an interesting tool for getting some buzz and awakening creative spirit in your most enthusiastic followers, but there is a high chance that your consumers merely interpret it as ‘another fun Facebook game’. Hearing back thorough thoughts and sincere responses? Not likely, because consumers would need time and intimacy for that, after they established a mutual trust with researchers and the brand itself that helps them open up.
Good news is you don’t have to turn away from online platforms being utterly disillusioned by faceless virtual masses.
Social media research software, like online consumer community platforms, make it possible to handpick the segments that are truly relevant for your brand.
Respondents will have a ‘face’, yet only those who fit certain criteria can contribute to the talk, ensuring that you keep listening to the right voices. Instead of dealing with an anonymous mass, people can give you a glimpse into their lives, providing the opportunity to ask better questions by knowing them better over time.
Ray Poynter famously used the allegory of communities offering the comfort of a ‘long time relationship’ where partners have time to discuss issues in an open, proactive, caring way, versus ad hoc research sessions and surveys that are seen as a rushed ‘one night stand’. Long-term communities have the same pleasant benefits but also offer more value.
For instance, interaction sparks between users by commenting on each other’s posts and creating an engaging dialogue just like it would happen in a brainstorming session. What sets ‘co-creating’ in online communities apart from live sessions is the psychological advantage of consumers logging in from their homes.
They are not forced to come up with the ‘Big Idea’ cramped into a fieldwork room, suffering from time and peer pressure. In fact, they have the opportunity to digest the issue over time, look up inspiring examples from external sources (like fashion blogs, international magazines, Instagram, Pinterest or other visually driven social media sites) and ask for friends’ opinion.
Not to mention another great benefit: experienced community managers are always on hand, ensuring that the discussion remains active and stays on track, digging into as deep as possible.
Knowing that the brand is truly listening to them, consumers will get involved in the ideation process in a more personal way, which likely results in being more proactive, giving thorough answers and engaging themselves to take part in the brand’s development instead of eroding it by trolling on a public forum.
In fact, the online world can indeed be your oyster, but you had better turn to experts to get that pearl out of the shell.